How to Build Your Own: Rustic Wood Benches

| Posted By: Brian | 15 Comments

Sitting out on the patio on a summer evening is a perfect way to wind down the day. It’s also a great place to gather on the weekend with friends. When Lara and I moved into our house from our apartment, this was one of the things that we looked forward to the most. But our only furniture was a table and 4 chairs. Definitely not enough seating for all of those huuuuge parties (*rolling eyes* yea right, haha) that we were going to throw. We needed more seating. And since we just moved into a new house (which, as we later discovered, has a lot of expenses beyond the typical bills), this seating had one tough prerequisite…it had to be free.

Lucky for us, we had outdoor furniture growing all around us right in our backyard. There were some pretty cool wood benches standing there waiting to join our other patio furniture. However, there was one problem. These wooden benches were still in the form of trees. My chainsaw would be needed to extract the benches out of the trees.

One particular tree, a shagbark hickory, had fallen and needed cleaned up anyway. As I was cutting it up for firewood, I cut a 6 ft long section near the trunk that I saved to turn into the benches. This part of the trunk was about 12 inches in diameter, a perfect width for the benches. Well, for now at least. If I make these again a few years (and pounds) down the road, a couple inches wider just might be better. But for now? 12 inches it is.

After I cut the 6 ft long section of the tree, it was time to cut it right down the middle along the length with my chainsaw. Do you like food? Well so do I. So here is a food example. Think of it like splitting a sub bun down the middle with a knife. Except replace the sub bun and knife with wood and a chainsaw. Since chainsaws are made for crosscutting wood, cutting wood down the length (also called ripping) with a chainsaw takes patience. It is a slow but steady process. But in the end, I got two bench tops.

The tree trunk split into two pieces with my chainsaw.

The tree trunk section cut into two pieces with my chainsaw. One trunk = two benches.

At this stage, the tops were a really rough cut. Not a bench that anyone would ever want to sit on.  Unless you like that feeling of a splinter going up your…you get the idea.  I got out my old fashioned hand plane and started peeling off paper thin slivers of wood. And after a lot if pushing, the bench tops started to actually look pretty sittable (if that’s not a word, just pretend for a minute that it is).

The hand plane smoothed out the bench tops. For the final touch, I brought out the sandpaper. The sandpaper really started to bring out the grain in the hickory. After a couple coats of spar urethane, they were ready for the weather and were looking pretty sharp. But, this was only the tops. Now these benches needed legs.

Wood bench top after being sanded.

The smooth benchtop after being planed, sanded, and a coat of urethane.

For the legs, I used the same tree. I cut some logs that were wide enough to support my bench tops and long enough to make the benches the right height. I then cut a U into the top of each let so the bench top would fit right down into each leg. After a couple of tries of cutting and re-cutting, the benches all fit together and seemed pretty sturdy. The final dimensions of my legs were 17″ tall and 15″ in diameter to put my final benchtop height at 19″.

The log support for the benchtop

The log support carved by my chainsaw to hold the benchtop.

After a lot of chainsaw cutting, planing, and sanding, we now have some free homemade benches that offer a rustic look to our backyard patio area by our fire ring. And one more important thing. These benches aren’t light. After lifting them around the yard, I now resemble hercules! Ok, nevermind. Lara disagrees. Moving on.

The finalized wood bench on the patio.

The final view of the completed homemade wooden bench. It also has a twin brother.

Final homemade benches sitting around the fire ring.

The final two homemade rustic benches sitting by the firering.

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15 Responses to “How to Build Your Own: Rustic Wood Benches”

  1. […] It stands by itself, unconnected to our house and no room for anything but the firepit and the rustic wood benches that I built. Well folks, the time has now arrived to install more paver patio. And while […]

  2. Thomas says:

    Thanks for the great photos and nicely written instructions. In the spring I have a few logs already cut for benches and will cut some posts. Mine will be going along a hiking trail I’ve been building ( so I think my posts will be taller and sunk into holes to hold it permanently in place. Thanks again! -Thomas

    • Brian says:

      That trail looks awesome. You’ve put a lot of work into clearing the trail and lining it with logs. Also a great looking wooded lot with some beautiful color in the fall with all of those maples.

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  4. Adin B says:

    Thank you for sharing this one. I love it! I might have to ask my husband to make one or two for me in our yard. :)

  5. Andrea says:

    So it’s been a couple years since this was posted and I’m wondering how the spar urethane has held up? Do you get snow where you are? I’m planning on making a similar bench and am just a bit concerned about weathering.

    • Brian says:

      Hi Andrea – Sorry it’s been soooooooo long and I haven’t responded. The spar urethane started peeling after a year or so. If I wanted it to maintain the “smooth and pretty” look, I would probably have to refinish it once a year. We get a lot of snow here as well. Curious if there is a better alternative out there for this. Let me know if you find something better!

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